Monroe Warshaw got caught up in the auction of Hopi Katsinam masks that became controversial last April when the tribe tried to stop the sale. The art dealer and photographer ended up buying two of the lots for $34,000.
After the auction Warshaw spoke to reporters, expressing his views. He said he felt vilified by the media and has received a lot of hate mail in response to his comments and purchases. With some trepidation, he recently decided to go to the Hopi reservation, planning to give one headdress to the tribe and the other to a museum. But after attending a Hopi home dance, Warshaw had a change of heart.
“Despite them being ceremonial or religious, they’re extraordinary things and when you realize, you don’t own these,” Warshaw said. “But if you would’ve seen what I saw you almost couldn’t. You couldn’t own it because it’s like you’ve ripped the heart of an animal out. These are living things and they should be there.”
The Hopi call them friends or spirits. At least two other friends from the auction have been returned to the tribe. But Warshaw said another Paris auction of similar items is planned for the fall.
Art dealer returns Hopi sacred items after change of heart (Southern California Public Radio)